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Semaglutide not associated with increased suicidal thoughts

Semaglutide used in the diabetes drug Ozempic and the weight-management drug Wegovy is not associated with an increased risk for suicidal thoughts, a study by researchers at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine has found.

Semaglutide is a glucagon-like peptide receptor (GLP-1r) chemical that helps regulate blood sugar in type 2 diabetes and reduces appetite. After examining about 2 million patients with type 2 diabetes or obesity, the research team - led by biomedical informatics professor Rong Xu - found no evidence to support concerns by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that semaglutide may cause suicidal ideations.

In fact, the study found that Ozempic and Wegovy actually reduced the risk for suicidal ideations. Xu, also the medical school's Center for AI in Drug Discovery director, was joined by medical school co-author Nathan Berger, the Hanna-Payne Professor of Experimental Medicine, and Pamela B Davis, the Arline H, and Curtis F Garvin Research, Professor Nora D Volkow, director of the National Institute for Drug Abuse, also was a co-author.

To assess the association between semaglutide and the risk of suicidal ideations, the team began examining the electronic health records of nearly 101 million patients nationally. They then applied specific inclusion criteria to select 2 million patients further.

"It was similar to how we gathered real-time evidence of COVID-19 infections and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic," Xu said.

Berger added that a clinical trial will be necessary to understand the side effects of semaglutide fully. In the meantime, the group has been able to analyse national data to help patients make educated decisions about the risks of using semaglutide.

In this study, two distinct patient populations were analyzed: Those with type 2 diabetes were provided Ozempic, while patients with obesity were prescribed Wegovy. Patients were tracked for six months to evaluate the occurrence of suicidal ideation as well as any recurrent suicidal thoughts, as recorded in their health records.

Men and women; Black, White, and Hispanic patients; adults under 45; middle-aged adults (46–64); and elderly patients (65 years and older) also underwent separate examinations. Once more, the researchers reported that reductions in the risk of suicidal ideation were consistently found across age, ethnicity, and gender.

When compared to non-GLP1R anti-obesity and anti-diabetes drugs, it showed a lower risk for both the first incidence and recurrence of suicidal ideations in patients who were prescribed semaglutide (as Ozempic or Wegovy).

"The exploding popularity of this drug makes it imperative to understand all its potential complications," explained Davis. "It's important to know that prior suggestions that the drug might trigger suicidal thoughts is not borne out in this very large and diverse population in the U.S."

The paper, 'Association of semaglutide with risk of suicidal ideations in a real-world cohort', was recently accepted for publication by Nature Medicine.


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